Friday, November 15, 2013

Commonwealth v. Markum case brief

Commonwealth v. Markum case brief summary
541 A.2d 347 (1988)

Appellants sought review of a conviction for defiant trespass, which was entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (Pennsylvania).

Appellants were charged with defiant trespass as a result of their destruction of property and occupation of an abortion clinic. Appellants claimed that justification under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 501-510 provided a defense. The trial court denied the use of the defense, and a jury convicted appellants.

  • The court affirmed the convictions because justification did not provide a defense. 
  • To prove justification as a defense, appellants had shown under § 503 that there was a clear and imminent harm, that appellants' actions would have avoided the greater harm, that there was no legal alternative to prevent the harm, and that the legislature did not preclude the defense. 
  • The court found that because abortion was legal under the Abortion Control Act, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 3201-3220, and under the United States Constitution, abortion was not a public disaster. 
  • Additionally, appellants were unable to prevent abortion by its offense in one clinic, there were suitable peaceful means by which to make a protest, and there was a legislative purpose in the preclusion of the defense to appellants because abortion was legal.

The court affirmed appellants' convictions for defiant trespass and held that justification was not a defense to the activity because appellants committed an illegal act against persons involved in legal activity. There was no imminent public disaster in which there was no alternative but to commit the offense, and there was a legislative purpose for the justification defense not to apply to the offense.

Also see: Abortion legal definition -

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